Spain and Italy bring Euro 2012 to an end tonight in Kiev.
It is a repeat of the opening Group C clash from 3 weeks ago. On that occasion the score was 1-1 and it was quite an entertaining, end to end game.
Spain go with the same 11 that started that game. Cesc Fabregas will once again play in the false number 9 role.
Italy appear to be lining up in their now familiar 4-4-2 diamond.
Spain have been a long way from their best in this tournament but they have still been good enough to reach the Final, having only conceded one goal.
Lining up with no recognised striker is a philisophy I don't agree with. They have looked at their best with Torres leading the line.
Del Bosque's tactics in this tournament have been nothing short of bizarre. Take the Semi-Final as an example. They started with Negredo, a 6 foot 1 target man. They didn't give him the service that a target man requires. There were no balls into the box for him to get on the end of. In the second half he was substituted for Fabregas & shortly after this Del Bosque brought on two wingers, Jesus Navas & Pedro. Surely the wingers would have been better being on the pitch to compliment the target man.
Del Bosque has a great record. 2 La Liga titles and 2 Champions Leagues from his time at Real Madrid and the 2010 World Cup with Spain but some of his decisions in this tournament have been at the least, highly questionable.
Italy have been getting better as the tournament has gone on. They were in trouble after two 1-1 draws in their first two games. If Croatia and Spain had decided to play out a 2-2 draw, then Italy were going home. As it was Spain beat Croatia and Italy beat Ireland to reach the last 8.
In that last 8, Italy battered England for 120 minutes but could not get the goal and had to rely on penalties to win. In the Semi-Final against Germany, Italy gave the best display of the tournament. They left the Germans shell shocked after two Balotelli goals put them 2-0 ahead. They defended superbly and although Germany got a goal back in stoppage time, Italy were deserving winners.
Italy lineup tonight in their 4-4-2 diamond shape. Italy will need Andrea Pirlo to be at his best this evening but it will be very difficult for him as the midfield will be packed with four Italians in a narrow shape meeting six Spaniards. If Pirlo can somehow find space in there, then he is more than good enough to make things difficult for Spain.
With so many bodies in the midfield we will no doubt see a tight, tense game. Spain have been here before & have always came out on top. Italy still have a few players from their 2006 World Cup win, Buffon, Pirlo & De Rossi all played in that Final, but for the majority of the squad this is a first.
My heart says Italy will win. Pirlo has been the best player in the knockout stages and Mario Balotelli is great entertainment, on and off the pitch. However, in football it is amazing how often a side follow up a great result with a bad one. Italy produced a magnificent display to beat a German side who many people felt were unstoppable. That was on Thursday night. It's a huge ask to take on Spain just three days later. Spain will be content to just pass the ball around, tiring out the Italians. Spain are one of the most patient football teams of all time. They will wait for that chance and unfortunately on this occasion I have to let my head rule my heart and go with a Spain victory.
Spain 1-0 Italy